UPF implements the Ethical Line, based on Barcelona City Council’s Ethical Mailbox model

UPF becomes the first Catalan university to incorporate this digital communication channel, which has been operating since July, as a guarantee of and a complement to the mechanisms set forth in its Code of Ethics. Barcelona City Council, together with Xnet, which launched the Ethical and Good Governance Mailbox in 2017, has provided UPF with information and experience to implement the tool.

Today, 28 September, Barcelona City Council hosted the signature of the protocol for accession by Pompeu Fabra University to Barcelona City Council’s Ethical and Good Governance Mailbox. This collaboration has allowed UPF to create the Ethical Line , a digital tool that has now been operating for a few months to respond to reports of non-compliance with the University’s ethical principles, under the framework of its Code of Ethics.

UPF’s Ethical Line, which is the first to be created within the Catalan university setting, is based on the experience, technology and information provided by Barcelona City Council.

UPF’s Ethical Line , which is the first to be created within the Catalan university setting, is based on the experience, technology and information provided by Barcelona City Council, which, in January 2017, launched the Ethical and Good Governance Mailbox , in keeping with its commitment to transparency and good practices and the selfless collaboration of the citizen platform Xnet.

The collaboration framework protocol has been signed by Laia Bonet , deputy mayor for Agenda 2030, Digital Transition, Sports and Territorial and Metropolitan Coordination; Oriol Amat, UPF rector, and Sergio Salgado and Simona Levi , chair and co-founder of Xnet, respectively. Also in attendance in representation of the City Council were Michael Donaldson Jordi Cases , general secretary; and on behalf of UPF, Pere Torra , general secretary, and Josep Maria Casasús , University ombuds officer.

During the signature proceedings, the deputy mayor , Laia Bonet , stressed that this channel "is an indispensable instrument for strengthening the integrity systems of all public institutions, not just of governments" and expressed her satisfaction that UPF is also taking this step, "especially now that the countdown has begun for the transposition of the European Whistleblower Protection Directive".

Bonet highlighted that "Barcelona was a pioneer in Europe" in the implementation of a channel of alerts or complaints with the requirements of the Ethical Mailbox and recalled that a dozen or so institutions have already opted to adopt this tool that "seeks to prevent wrongful practices and fight fraud".

Meanwhile, the UPF rector, Oriol Amat , stated that "Universities -like any other complex organizationmust have a robust and ambitious institutional integrity policy" and "the UPF Ethical Line is a channel that provides every guarantee of compliance with the ethical principles of our university community".

Pere Torra, UPF general secretary, added that "we are very grateful for the support of Barcelona City Council -despite occurring in the midst of the pandemic- as it has been decisive to be able to implement the UPF Ethical Line project" and he recalled that "it all started with the renewal of the Code of Ethics that UPF had already had in place since 2012, and the approval of the European Directive strengthened this process".

Both Barcelona City Council’s Ethical and Good Governance Mailbox and the UPF Ethical Line are characterized by being secure, two-way communication channels, which guarantee the anonymity and confidentiality of the person reporting the incident. Its aim is for the citizens of Barcelona and members of the University community to be able to report practices that could harm good institutional governance, with full respect for the values of democratic quality and good administration, always in a context of continuous improvement of quality public services.

With their respective channels, the two institutions have got ahead of the EU regulations for the protection of whistleblowers, according to the EU Directive approved in 2019, which is to be transposed prior to 17 December 2021.

The Ethical Line, a two-way, anonymous channel to uphold the principles of the UPF Code of Ethics

Operating since July 2021, the Ethical Line has arisen from the renewal of the University’s Code of Ethics , approved by the Board of Governors a year earlier, after a participatory process involving the entire university community. UPF has created the Ethical Line as a mechanism for ensuring and complying with the principles set out in the Code of Ethics that must govern the actions of the people belonging to the University community: integrity, academic freedom, responsibility, honesty, equality, privacy and confidentiality, respect and sustainability.

The Ethical Line is overseen by the UPF Integrity Committee , chaired by professor Cristina Gelpí , and also created following the renewal of the Code of Ethics in 2020. The Committee is currently working on four communications, for which it has three months to respond.

It is an electronic communication channel at the service of the university community and the general public, which seeks to strengthen the value of online interaction. It serves to communicate, anonymously and confidentially, any conduct by UPF that may be contrary to law, the Code of Ethics and the established principles or rules of ethics or good governance, and to encourage collaboration between the University and people.

Barcelona City Council’s Ethical and Good Governance Mailbox, a pioneering tool at the service of citizens to fight against fraud and corruption

Barcelona City Council’s Ethical and Good Governance Mailbox was launched on 20 January 2017, as a secure, two-way channel for citizens and municipal staff to send, by electronic means, their complaints against corruption or other practices harmful to the good governance of the city. The mailbox allows informing the City Council of any irregular practices or conduct that may contravene ethical and behavioural principles, always guaranteeing the confidentiality, anonymity and indemnity of the denouncer to overcome the fear of retaliation.

This tool also offers the possibility of attaching photographs, videos and other documents as well as establishing and maintaining a constant, secure communication space between the anonymous reporter and the managing body. This essential feature makes it an invaluable tool in prevention and in the fight to consolidate ethics and good governance in public institutions and combat fraud and corruption.

Barcelona was the first city in Spain and Europe to create a tool with free software and an encrypted network. Developed and implemented by Barcelona City Council, with the generous collaboration of the Xnet citizen platform, through the Globaleaks interface (a free software project of the Hermes Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights), it is open code, modifiable and replicable, provided that the authorship of Xnet and Barcelona City Council, in equal parts, is expressly acknowledged and indicated.

To date, in addition to UPF, the Barcelona Ethical and Good Governance Mailbox model has been implemented by the Generalitat (Government) of Catalonia, by town and city councils such as those of Lleida, Terrassa and Mollet del Vallès, in the public company Ferrocarrils de the Generalitat de Catalunya, and the Anti-Fraud Offices of Catalonia and Valencia.